(directors: Jordan Alan/Andy Wolk/David Richards; screenwriters: David Birke/Jordan Alan; cinematographer/editor: Ron Travisano; cast: Lewis Arquette (Detective Furbal), David Arquette (Forensic Agent), Richmond Arquette (Detective), Alexis Arquette (Cannibal), Robert Cait (Dr. Wong), Pam Gidley (Beta Carotene), Peter Greene (Detective Finnigan), Teresa Hill (Ivy Roberts), Heather Graham (Suzan Pretsel), Rose McGowan (Jasmine), Lukas Haas (Forensic Agent); Runtime: 96; Filmworks / Terminal Bliss Pictures; 1997-UK/USA)

“The comedy fell like bricks thrown against a wall.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

So far this is the worst film I’ve seen this year, and that was the only thing clear about the film. Its story never materialized as anything but nonsense, the acting was worst than it is possible to believe, and the dialogue only served to exasperate a bad situation and make it worst. It was supposedly a comedy spoof on noir films, with every character trying to act obnoxious and crazier than the next. The film had no focus, characters came in and out of scenes without rhyme or reason. The actors’ improvisations only made things more muddled. The film had an annoying habit of giving a character a big buildup, as if the character was going to be a major part of the story, and then never getting back to the character. It seemed to be written by someone who came down with amnesia while writing the script. It was played like a cartoon, but it was too heavy-handed to feel whimsical. The comedy fell like bricks thrown against a wall. The actors seemed as if they were looking into the camera for a script, or for a director, or pleading for help from anyone.

The plot involves the discovery that a performance artist (Justine) in Los Angeles is found murdered while dressed in a tutu, with a poisoned carrot stuffed up her buttocks. The detectives question her lesbian friends and the shady people she knew in the film industry for clues to why someone would want to kill her. There will be a total of four similar killings and the detectives go after a serial killer or maybe two serial killers. Heather Graham is one of those friends questioned and throws suspicion on other lesbian friends of Justine’s.

In their pursuit, the detectives attend a group therapy session given just for killers released from prison, talk to an armless pathologist (Cait), and get a police informer (Rose McGowan) to track down the serial killer, someone who goes by the name of Beta Carotene.

The attempt was to make every character and scene into a parody of a former film. The detectives talked in a 1940s dead-pan noirish manner. The characters hammed it up playing psychos like they thought mental patients would act without their medication. The women acted like sluts. The armless pathologist put on a sick routine about being armless. As obnoxious as that characterization was, at least it was funny. Meanwhile as hard as the film tried to get laughs, the harder it was to get a laugh.

There were four Arquettes in this film (brothers David, Richmond, and Alexis, and their father Lewis). I wonder what they said about the film during their family dinner!

This film seems aimed at the youth audience whose brains have been scrambled, probably from sniffing too many spoof films. I would only recommend this film for those film buffs who love to see films that are so bad that it makes them feel good to know films like this could still be made. “Kiss and Tell” is too bizarre for me to want to make an effort to tell too many other details about it: I won’t kiss and tell!

Heather Graham in Kiss & Tell (1997)